As the United States grew, the Missouri-Kansas border became a bustling
crossroads as an increasingly diverse population moved into and through the
region. Many of these newcomers held notions of “liberty” and
“freedom” that contrasted sharply with those of the original settlers, who
hailed mostly from the Upper South. These opposing ideas of personal
liberty, personal property, freedom of choice, and freedom to associate were
all brought to the forefront when the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 reopened
questions and conflicts that had smoldered under the surface since the
Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Crossroads of Conflict: Contested Visions of Freedom and the Missouri-Kansas Border War is a Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for Teachers that explores historic homes and public buildings, landscapes, and archival collections in light of recent scholarship in order to better understand the clash of cultures and differing definitions of “freedom” that played out on the Missouri-Kansas border. Workshop participants will consider the forces and events that led to the abandonment of the understandings reached in the Missouri Compromise, the challenge to popular sovereignty in the Kansas Territory, and the establishment of the shadow “Free State” government. They will examine the nature and intensity of the struggles between the Kansas Jayhawkers and Missouri Bushwhackers and the general mayhem these vicious disputes engendered along the Missouri-Kansas border during the fight over the status of Kansas, as well as during the violent years of the Civil War.
The Crossroads of Conflict workshop will provide K-12 teachers with tools to devise fresh techniques for using historical settings, architecture, material culture, art and drama, along with historical documents and records to enable students to engage with the past and gain a better understanding of the forces that shaped and continue to influence national and local history.